Consumers have always been a tough act to please but, in the store, there’s an obstacle making conversion harder than ever for retailers. This weapon is a personal style consultant; a jury; a deal broker; an international media outlet. I am, of course, talking about the mobile phone.

The influence of mobile on retail habits has been well documented, most recently in an Ofcom survey revealing that a third of consumers see their smartphones as the most important device for connecting to the internet.

This ‘new era of mobile’ has led to consumers becoming reliant on their device to make every decision, in both the digital and physical world. Smartphones have become the trusted aid for shoppers in the aisles as well as online, shaping their path to purchase in every channel.

So how do bricks-and-mortar retailers ensure that society’s mobile obsession drives traffic towards the checkout, rather than towards rival ecommerce channels?

Acceptance is an important first step. Maintaining the naïve stance that mobile doesn’t exist in the store will simply turn it into an unspoken problem; retailers only have to glance across a shop floor on any given Saturday to see scores of shoppers glued to their smartphone screens.

Acknowledgement is the next stage. Retailers’ main fear of mobile is its ability to drive consumers in uncontrolled directions, even urging them to place their business online instead.

By admitting mobile’s role in today’s store journey, organisations can begin to develop strategies that use shoppers’ love of smartphones to their advantage. Some examples of this include:

  • Encouraging customers to ‘check in’ on social media and upload images of themselves shopping in-store
  • Promoting their online catalogue to showcase different items or colour options not displayed on the shelves
  • Placing QR codes on advertising collateral or shelf labels, linking to further product information or special offers
  • Beaming location-based promotions to shoppers’ mobile phones using the latest beacon technology
  • Sending consumers digital coupons to use at the checkout, rather than printing out a paper voucher post-purchase

The latter is an interesting example of how mobile actually enables retailers to compete with online offerings on even terms.

Customer incentives and loyalty schemes have progressed at dramatically different rates in the store and digitally. Ecommerce retailers now have the power to optimise offers by season, time of day, purchasing history, brand value, stock levels, location and response to previous marketing campaigns – to name just a few influential factors – to maximise response – and conversion – rates.

Compare this to the physical checkout, where most customers are presented with a generic voucher; at best, something offering them a few pence off their next shop, because their purchase would have been slightly cheaper elsewhere. Hardly compelling, is it?

Instead, retailers need to be channelling store offers through their customers’ mobile phones. By integrating with an Apple Passbook or Android equivalent, businesses can tailor their campaign to the same level of detail as online. In fact, they can even incorporate shoppers’ digital activity into these equations, to create an omnichannel digital loyalty scheme.

Playing to the crowd by bringing consumers’ favourite device into the bricks-and-mortar experience is far more likely to keep customers happy than ignoring the influence of mobile in-store.

It’s also more likely to let shoppers be guided by their smartphone, even if it’s the retailer masterminding that journey from entrance to checkout.

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